Yes, yes, the North Bay is beautiful. We get it. No really, it is. I’ve driven through it plenty of times but this past year I’ve been exploring it more than I had in the past. I’ve made plenty of trips to beautiful areas such as Napa, St. Helena, Calistoga, pretty much the entire wine country but in between the beautiful wine country and Bodega Bay, is where a great drive or even a great weekend escape, awaits. About 60 miles north of San Francisco, The Bohemian Highway stretches from Freestone to Guerneville, home of the Russan River Blues Festival which takes place in September. Here is the mile long link if you’re interested. http://www.sonomauncorked.com/wine-country-events/annual-events/russian-river-blues-festival/ The road then leads to the Korbel Champagne cellars www.korbel.com for those interested in tasting some bubbly before heading back on the highway. But bring your thermos full of coffee if you do that.
The entire highway is a beautiful ride but personally, I prefer the south end of the highway and the surrounding areas. Having done this drive with my friend a few times now, the last time we went, we drove from Highway 1 and went through the town of Valley Ford off of Valley Ford Road. (Easy to remember). This is a great place to stop, nose around the shops a bit and maybe have lunch at Dinuccis, a family style Seafood and Italian restaurant. From here, we discovered the lovely Sonoma Coast Spa and Villa which I covered in a previous post, then onto the town of Bodega (not Bodega Bay). This is a small, quaint little town which had two things that we thought were really cool. I love a good antique shop and have a thing for antique newspapers and anything about Paris so I was lucky enough to score a newspaper from The Call, a San Francisco newspaper that is no longer in print. This particular headline read, PARIS FREED (the day the Nazis got tossed out of Paris). I love finding stuff like that so I could frame it up and put it next to the 200 other Parisian paraphernalia I own. The other really cool thing, especially if you’re a Rocky Horror Picture show fan is the church on the hill in Bodega. I’ve seen Rocky Horror plenty of times but my friend Lisa is a bit of an aficionado of that film and pointed out that the church in Bodega is a spitting image of the one in the beginning of the movie. Of course, we each took about 12 photos of one little church because of this important coincidence. And would you believe that Rocky Horror was on tv that night?! That’s fate. Film freaks will understand this.
From the Bodega Hwy, we eventually ran into the start of the Bohemian Highway in the town of Freestone. The moment you make the turn you’ve got to hit the brakes, and park the car because there is a lot of fun to be had there. For starters, the Osmosis Day Sanctuary is on the right hand side, (see earlier post) then you can walk across the street to get the best sticky buns ever. Wild Flour Bread is a bakery which reminds me of something you would see in Provence.
They use a wood-fired brick oven to bake their sourdough bread and every time I go there, I stand outside and take a deep breath to inhale the incredible aroma coming out of their oven. They have a nice sitting area where you can nosh to your heart’s content and an organic garden which is open to the public. I’ve tried their scones, sticky buns(of course), and this last time, bought a kalamata olive loaf which is currently my new favorite. I spent the rest of the week melting horseradish cheddar cheese over slices of the olive bread creating what I think is the world’s best pizza bread. At least in my kitchen. Don’t knock it. It’s awesome!
From that point on, it was on to the charming town of Occidental. The drive makes you wonder where the hell you’re going but you actually get there in no time. My friend had come to Occidental with her family since childhood so I’ve become equally attached to it. It’s small, a population of less than 250, has very friendly merchants and great Italian food as well as French, and other varieties of restaurants to choose from. I was told that there is a bit of a food controversy between two restaurants, Negris and the Union Hotel as far as which one serves the best food. From what I hear, people tend to pick their favorite and stick with it, insisting that their favorite is the best one. If there’s a fight about whose food is better I’d say the customers are the winners! In the few visits that I have made, I’ve only tried the Union Hotel and have come home stuffed every time but one of these days I’ll be rebellious and try the other just to compare. That’s me….living on the edge.
The Inn at Occidental is the gorgeous, upscale bed and breakfast in town. www.innatoccidental.com It has a veranda for lounging, a wine and cheese hour, fireplace, and is a perfect romantic getaway or retreat. Check out their website for rates and specials which may be running throughout the year and you will also find a great description of the farmer’s markets which run throughout the summer.
I always enjoy the shops in Occidental and can find everything from earings, which I always seem to buy, handmade soaps, and a really cool recycled items shop which is fun to check out. The town also has a Redwood Arts Council which presents local artists and musicians who perform throughout the year. There seems to always be something happening in town so check their website to see what’s on. www.russianrivertravel.com